Kazakhs reportedly blocking Russian launches
BAIKONUR, Kazakhstan – Kazakhstan reportedly is blocking three Russian satellite launches in a dispute over the rocket-debris drop zone, AFP reported May 28, quoting anonymous officials.
Kazakhstan has barred the launch of 3 Soyuz rockets from the Baikonur cosmodrome May 23, June 7 and in August scheduled to carry seven satellites because it argues the Russians may not use “Zone 120” in Kostanai and Aktobe oblasts as a drop zone for the rockets’ debris unless Kazakhstan and Russia sign an amendment to their launch-leasing treaty, Kommersant reported.
The rockets carry satellites into orbit, but debris, including rocket boosters fall to earth in Kazakhstan after lift-off. Manned launches are likely unaffected by the dispute because their rocket debris usually falls elsewhere in Kazakhstan, AFP reported.
Russian Federal Space Agency head Vladimir Popovkin plans to visit Kazakhstan soon to resolve the matter, Novosti-Kazakhstan reported May 29, quoting RIA Novosti. Russia pays Kazakhstan almost US $115m (170 billion KZT) in rent yearly to use Baikonur, AFP reported.